The Devastating Costs of the Amazon Gold Rush

Spurred by rising global demand for the metal, miners are destroying invaluable rainforest in Peru's Amazon basin

To find flecks of gold, workers devour the rainforest floor with water cannons. "There are a lot of accidents," says one. "The sides of the hole can fall away, can crush you." (Ron Haviv / VII)
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Finally he shrugs. “I’d say, after all the pay and expenses, approximately $1,050.”

“And you’ll do three of those this morning?”


“That’s an average morning?”

“Today was OK. Today was good.”

A few minutes later, he begins cooking his next batch.

Alipio mentions that recently the price of gold has fallen a bit. Because costs for mercury and fuel have increased, he says, he and his crews exist at the margin of profitability.

“What will happen,” I ask, “if the price of gold falls a lot, as it does from time to time?”

“We’ll see if that happens this time,” Alipio says.

“But if it does?”


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